State Agency Looks at Possible Independent Government for Native Hawaiians -From the Frequently Asked Questions on Hawaiian Governance

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”’This is reprinted from the Office of Hawaiian Affairs Web site, which is a public agency set up in 1978 to “serve” the native Hawaiian community. In this Q & A, the agency highlights the fact that native Hawaiians are looking at the formation of their own government, and give several options for what that government could be like.”’

”Why should Native Hawaiians consider the formation of a new self-governing body?”


To provide for a better future and to secure their rights Native Hawaiians must consider a new relationship with the U.S. government.

This effort to establish a new government is founded on three basic principles: 1) that the overthrow of the Kingdom of Hawaii was an illegal act under U.S. and International Law; 2) that both the U.S. government and the state of Hawaii have failed to care for Native Hawaiian people, falling far short of their responsibiltiy to preserve and protect Native Hawaiian rights, lands, assets and culture; and 3) that Native Hawaiians maintain their inherent right to self-government, a right which they have never relinquished.

”Why the urgency to form a Native Hawaiian Government?”

In todays hostile legal environment, characterized by persistent and frequent challenges to the continued existence of programs and laws intended to protect and preserve Native Hawaiian cultural, traditional and spiritual practices and resources, many in the Hawaiian community feel that now is the time to take action and solidify Native Hawaiian rights through the establishment of a new Native Hawaiian governing body.

”What form of government will be established?”

The ultimate form of government — be it total independence, nation-within-a-nation or free association — must be decided upon and ratified by the Native Hawaiian people.

”What could a Native Hawaiian government do for its people?”

Generally governments protect members rights and provide a means for justice and security. Common services provided by a government include, health care, education, economic development, social service programs, emergency services, and resource management and protection.

”Whats the difference between independence, nation-within-a-nation, and free association?”

”Independence:” This model would mean complete legal and territorial separation from the United States and the re-establishment of the Hawaiian nation-state.

”Nation-Within-A-Nation:” This model would mean nationhood within the legal and territorial limits of the United States. This would amount to a self-governing status similar to American Indian and Alaska Native governments.

”Free Association:” this model would mean nationhood with marginal connections to the legal and territorial limits of the United States. This would amount to a self-governing status similar to other islands in the Pacific like the Republic of the Marshall Islands and the Federated States of Micronesia and their relationship with the United States. This would allow the Native Hawaiian nation to remain self-governing and fully responsible for internal affairs. The United States would retain responsibilty for some support and defense. However, these responsibilities would confer no rights of control and would only be exercised at the request of the Native Hawaiian government.

”How does this relate to the current efforts for Federal Recognition?”

Currently, there is proposed legislation (S. 344) before Congress that seeks to affirm the indigenous status of Native Hawaiians and their special political and legal relationship with the United States. The proposed bill would create a process for the United States to recognize a Native Hawaiian governing entity as a nation-within-a-nation, similar to the current status of American Indian and Alaska Native governments.

While OHA has expressed its support for the intent of this proposed legislation, efforts to discuss, develop, and reorganize a new Native Hawaiian nation will be conducted outside this framework. It will be entirely up to the Native Hawaiian people to decided what form of government is established, not OHA or the proponents of this proposed legislation.

”What is the difference between Self-Determination and Sovereignty?”

”Self-Determination:” 1) The freedom to live as one chooses, or to act or decide without consulting others; and 2) The freedom of a people to determine the way in which they shall be governed and whether or not they shall be self-governed.

”Sovereignty:” 1) The quality or state of being sovereign; 2) The status, dominion, power, or authority of a sovereign; royalty; 3) Supreme and independent power or authority in a state; 4) rightful status, independence, or prerogative; and 5) A sovereign state, community, or political unit. (Source: Websters Dictionary)

Under current U.S. law, there are only five entities that maintain some form of sovereignty; the federal government, state governments, tribal governments, territorial governments, and nations in free association with the United States. However, state, tribal, and territorial governmental sovereignty is limited under the ultimate sovereign authority of the federal government and the U.S. Constitution.

”What is OHAs Role?”

OHAs role in this process is as a facilitator only. Through community outreach and support OHA will provide the coordination and help necessary for communities, organizations, and individuals to participate in this critically important initiative.

OHAs guiding principles in this effort are to:

*Facilitate the process
*Create opportunities for kukakuka (discussion)
*Respond to community input and concerns
*Provide the information needed to make reasoned decisions
*Instill and communicate the urgent need for immediate action
*Mobilize community participation and political activism
*Assure full representation of the people

”What efforts will be required?”

This effort will require: 1) sharing information to generate discussion among the community and media in Hawaii and the continental United States; 2) regional, state, and national meetings; 3) the establishment of an official roster or roll of all those of Hawaiian ancestry; 4) identifying community leadership, and 5) the development and adoption of governing documents by the Native Hawaiian people.

”Who can participate?”

Support and help from the entire Hawaiian community is needed to educate the public and the media. However, it will ultimately be up to those of Native Hawaiian ancestry to decide what form of government will be established.

”What criteria must the Native Hawaiian government meet?”

The criteria that the governing entity must posses is: 1) a process that is open and inclusive; 2) public credibility; and 3) solid support from the Native Hawaiian people.

”How will the formation of a Native Hawaiian government affect non-Natives?”

The relationship between non-Hawaiians and the Native Hawaiian governing entity remains unclear. However, this effort in and of itself does not adversely affect or impact the rights of non-Hawaiians.

In fact, the formation of a Native Hawaiian government could impact non-Hawaiians in a number of positive ways. One would be an expanding job market. A Native Hawaiian government and the services it could provide would create new and diverse employment opportunities. Continued funding for social programs would help to safeguard current employment and could expand the employee and client base.

Opportunities for new businesses and for business expansion could also be developed. Businesses may be able to branch into areas where Native Hawaiian communities are being established. Partnering with Native Hawaiians to provide needed goods and services could also have economic benefits.

Most importantly, a Native Hawaiian government would help to restore dignity and pride in Native Hawaiian communities. This translates to better neighborhoods and healthier communities, benefiting all who live in Hawaii